The Battle of Maldon, Part 2

Viking host 001


Thus they stood firm,              strong-hearted,

Young heroes in battle.            Earnestly there they contended

To see who with the sword-point        might first of all

Win the prize of life                 from doomed men,                                                                  

The lives of warriors with weapons.                The slain fell to earth.

But the men stood steadfast;                Beorhtnoth spurred them on,

Bidding each of the young men           to set his heart on the battle,

Everyone who would win       glory from the Danes.


Then on came a hardened warrior,      upheaved his weapon,                                

Hunkered behind his shield,    and strode against the chief.

Just as resolute            the eorl charged the churl:

Either to the other        evil intended.

Then hurled the sea-warrior    a southern-made spear,                                               

Thus wounding          the lord of warriors;                                                                          

But Beorhtnoth thrust back with his shield     so that the shaft to-burst,           

Shivering the spear      and making it spring back again.

Filled with fury was the warrior:        with his spear he stung

The Viking proud,       the one who had him wounded.

Wise was the chief:      in he thrust in the javelin;                                                          

Right through the young fighter’s neck          his hand guided it                               

Until it reached the life-source             of his sudden enemy.

Then another shaft      he swiftly shot,

Bursting the byrnie,    wounding the man in the breast

Through the linked rings;        at his heart stood                                                             

The poisoned point.     The eorl was all the blither.                               

He laughed, brave man that he was,    giving thanks to the Creator

For the good day’s work          the Lord had given him.


Then one of the Vikings          let go a dart from his hand.

From his palm it flew;              straight on it went,                                                                 

Right through Beorhtnoth, the noble thane of Aethelred.              

At his side stood          a barely grown youth,

A mere boy in the battle,          who full bravely

Drew from the warrior            the bloody spear –

Wulfstan’s bairn,         Wulfmaer the Young;                                                                         

Back again he shot the spear                swift against the foe;

In went the point         so that on the earth lay

That very man who lately had             so terribly pierced his lord.                 

At this a crafty fighter drew near to the eorl,

Intending his arm-rings          to bring away,                                                                        

His armor and ring-mail         and ornamented shield.          

Then from the sheath               Beorhtnoth drew his sword,

Broad and bright-edged,          and struck the man upon the byrnie;

But one of the shipmen            deftly hindered him,

Injuring the eorl’s arm with his blow.                                                                         

Then to the earth                     fell the gold-hilted sword,

Nor might he any longer         hold the hard blade

Nor weapon wield.                  Yet still he spoke a word,

That hearty warrior,                encouraging the young men

And bidding the good comrades          to go forth.                                                                   


Then, when he could no longer on his feet      securely stand,

Beorhtnoth looked to the heavens        and said:

“I thank Thee,             Ruler of peoples,

For all the joys             that I in the world have known.

Now I have, Merciful Creator,     most need                                                                   

That Thou to my spirit            grant good,

That my soul to Thee               might depart,

Into Thy kingdom,                  Lord of angels,

To go in peace.            I only ask of Thee

That these Hell-fiends              may not prevail.”                                                                     


Then they hewed him,             those heathen cutthroats,

And both of the men                who by him stood …


*  *  *  *  *


(At this point many of Beorhtnoth’s men flee the field.  But others – especially his loyal thanes – press on, resolving to die beside their fallen lord rather than abandon him.  They make one last desperate stand.  One of their number, Beorhtwold, cries out as his comrades fall on every side:)


“Will shall be the harder        heart the keener                                                          

Spirit the greater         as our power lessens!

Here lies our prince                 all forhewn,

A good man on the ground;                may he ever mourn                                                     

Who now from this war-play              thinks to go.

I am old of years.                     I will not go away,

But intend by the side of my own lord,

A man so well-beloved,            to lie me down.”


(The manuscript cuts off as they prepare to fight to the bitter end …)          



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